What to look for in a medical translator
Updated: Sep 27
Looking for a specialized medical translator can be a real pain in the neck if you don’t know where and what to look for. I’ll share with you some pointers that will be very useful the next time you have to deal with a medical translation project.
Whether you need to translate patient information, regulatory documents, instructions for use, or marketing materials, medical translation goes much beyond language skills.
Translators must have a strong understanding of medical terminology, be sensitive to project timelines, and focus on the intended audience of any document.
That is why hiring a medical translator is essential to ensure the quality of your target text.
However, finding the right translator to work with on your medical translation projects can be a challenge.
Here are the top qualities you should look for when hiring a medical translator:
1. Industry experience
It goes without saying that the translator should specialize in translating medical content. You should work with someone who is experienced in the field and masters healthcare-related terminology. The best translations display a thorough understanding of the topic and the target audience.
2. Excellent language and writing skills
All linguists should be fluent in the source language and native speakers of the target language. Your translator should have advanced language and writing skills to produce a translation that is as clear and concise as the original.
3. Strong attention to detail
A single mistranslated word or missing number can put a person’s life at risk or compromise your whole submission process. Your translator should pay strict attention to accuracy (both in source and target), and to any cultural nuance that may need adjustment in the translated text.
Your translator should be proficient in using resources like medical dictionaries, databases, literature search engines, and regulatory templates – knowing where to turn for answers to their questions. Also, translation software allows linguists to maintain consistency in style and terminology with your existing translations and other reference material. Computer-Assisted Technology (CAT) tools are a must-have for linguists.
5. Reliability and responsiveness
On-time delivery is paramount. Missed deadlines can have expensive consequences. You need to make sure that you will receive high-quality work within your project timeline. In situations where time is of the essence, your translator should think ahead, anticipate problems, and respond and adapt immediately to pressing needs – and that includes confirming deadlines, sending updates, and asking for clarification when needed (whether it is about your target audience, product information, or terminology).
6. Value-based pricing
Medical translators are highly qualified, which often equals expensive. However, skimping on quality should never be an option. If you choose someone who will translate your medical content for a cheaper price, you cannot expect top quality. You get what you pay for. You will end up having to either retranslate it from scratch or revise and edit the poorly translated material you got. Keep in mind that a good medical translator will work in a team with a colleague or an expert reviewer who will check the translated text before delivering the final version to the client.
These are the key qualities medical translators should have – and that will make sure that your translator meets your immediate and future requirements. Even if you have just a small, one-off project, you should establish a relationship from the start with a partner whom you can trust in the future.
Now you know what and who to look for, but how can you find the right medical translator for your project?
Here are some tips:
1. Ask for recommendations
One of the best ways to find a good translator is to ask your colleagues or social media connections. If they are happy with their translations, you probably will be too. If you already work with a translator but need a different target language or specialism, ask if he or she can refer you to someone.
2. Use search engines and social media
Professional translators have websites (or, at least, LinkedIn profiles) with details about their services. You will find a range of translators, as long as you use the right search terms. When searching, include both the source language and target language you need and the words “medical translator” (e.g., English to Portuguese medical translator).
3. Contact professional translation associations
Professional associations of translators and interpreters offer online directories of their members, which you can use free of charge to find a suitable provider. In alternative, some associations may have a contact email that you can use to ask them to promote your request among their members.
Once you find a medical translator, take the time to have a conversation, and see if his or her profile and expertise are the right fit for you and your project.
I hope this article helped you understand what to look for in a translator and how to find the right partner for your medical translation project. If you still have questions about this or if you are looking for an English to Portuguese medical translator, get in touch!
Ana Sofia is an English to Portuguese medical translator and writer working with Life Sciences companies, Contract Research Organizations, and Medical Communication agencies. She has experience translating and writing content for clinical trials, medical devices, regulatory submissions, education and marketing campaigns, and scientific publications.